Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thoughts on Foonberg

Twenty years ago I read Jay Foonberg's book How To Start & Build A Law Practice. I have employed the tips I learned from that book throughout my career.



Jay has another book that I have just ordered (I don't know why it took me so long?) called How To Get & Keep Good Clients. It is also another treasure trove of tips and information.



If you are motivated to keep your practice profitable, and your clients happy, I cannot say enough about Jay's books.

Yes, I have included my Amazon Associate links in this post. And yes I stand to make money if you order either book from these links. That is not why I am posting about them. I am posting because they are great tools that have helped me succeed, and they can help you too!

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Has The Twitter Bubble Burst?

Dropoff in Twitter TrafficLarry Bodine writes that the Twitter hype is over, and makes the arg- ument against Twitter as a marketing tool for lawyers and law firms. I agree with him. I have seen absolutely no tangible return from my energy investment in Twitter. And I don't buy into the argument that the intagibles are just as important as the tangibles. Either the tool provides a measurable marketing return, or you move on to something else. It is time to move on from Twitter. Here is what Larry has to say.

Like CB radios, Twitter is turning out to be a fad that has peaked. Check the facts:

  • The number of Twitter users has started to decline according to Quantcast.
  • At best, Twitter’s growth suddenly stopped in May, according to Compete.com.
  • 55% of people who signed up for an account never posted a tweet, according to HubSpot's State of the Twittersphere.
  • 56% of people with a Twitter account are not following anyone, according to HubSpot.
  • 53% of Twitter account holders have no followers themselves.
  • 76% of users have not entered a bio in their profile,
  • There is a huge drop in use of Tweetdeck (an application many Twitters use to organize tweets) dropped from 915,000 to 476,000 between April and May, according to Social Media Insider.
  • 10% of Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets, according to Harvard Business School.
  • The average Twitter user tweets once and never again, according to Harvard.
twitter

The evidence continues to support my article, Twitter Not Effective for Law Firm Marketing.

Please click here for Larry's original article.

Now I can't wait for the gasoline to hit the fire as all those who have drunk the Twitter Cool-Aid berate Larry for being so bold as to criticize the Twitter craze.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Greatest Marketing Tool Of All Time!

Connecticut lawyer Adrian Baron publishes a blog called The Nutmeg Lawyer. It is filled with great stuff. You must take a look! This week Adrian posted an article on the most important marketing strategy of all time: The Schmooze! Rather than try and reinvent the wheel, I am simply going to cut and past the article. It is brilliant, and reaffirms in my mind that the best marketing in the world is still good old fashioned face time. Plus, his accompanying art work is classic (I always take my martinis shaken, not stirred). Here you go. Enjoy.

The Art of the Schmooze

Marketing is Not Advertising
Ben Franklin once said that the Constitution only guarantees you the right to the pursuit of happiness, you have to catch it yourself. In other words, don't wait for opportunities to happen, make them happen. Whatever type of law you practice, networking should be a part of your business development plan. I'm not talking about Facebook or Twitter social networking here. I am talking about old school Rat Pack schmoozing in the smooth "shaken not stirred" Sean Connery style. The kind of networking that actually makes you leave your computer screen in order to speak to a real honest to goodness living person.

In the olden days of rotary phones, wizards and dragons, business was not as hard to come by. There simply weren't that many attorneys pounding the pavement. You hung a shingle and business came primarily through word of mouth. Since advertising was prohibited, your business depended pretty much on your reputation and your ability to network. I've spoken to lawyers and judges who recall those days when attorneys would address each other with deference in the court room. Today you hear stories of attorneys calling each other jackass in open court. Last week, I watched in horror as a divorce attorney told an extremely patient judge that "even a first year law student" could understand his argument. You could hear a pin drop. At least until the judge laid into the schmuck. (Nutmeg tip: Refrain from insulting the judge. Especially when you're wrong. I guess common sense isn't always that common. )
*
Perhaps the greatest change in our profession has been in the realm of advertising. In an increasingly competitive market, lawyers splash over the top ads on billboards and busses. The dignity of the profession is put into question as our bar bretheren turn into snake oil salesmen hawking their wares on late night tv. Some of it has really gone to the point of absurdity. In my search of the web, I found a Divorce Deli Lawyer who offers free biscotti with every divorce, a NY law firm with a retrofitted mobile school bus office, a lawyer who performs magic tricks in court, and an attorney who advertises on billboards in her lingerie. (If you haven't seen it yet, check out an earlier Nutmeg post regarding bad lawyer marketing). So how do you compete if your advertising budget is regulated to a few sad fliers taped on the window of a local Stop & Shop alongside some babysitting job announcements? Or maybe you just don't want to tarnish your firm's reputation with a late night tv spot followed by the steel drums of a Girls Gone Wild infomercial.

It's difficult for me to imagine a world without lawyer advertising. In 1977, the average cost of a gallon of gas was 65 cents and you could buy a house for about $49,000. In that year, France performed their last execution by guillotine, Carter was president and Bates v. State Bar of Arizona set the stage for a new era of lawyer advertising. Nostradamus predicted that in the year of double 7s we shall seeyeth a king die an ignoble death on his throne, the nation would be plagued by a virus and court jesters would begin to give counsel. His predictions came true. Elvis, the King of Rock 'n Roll was dead, the nation succumbed to Saturday Night Fever and we were introduced to the phrase "Have you ever been injured in an auto accident?"

Before the rule change prohibiting advertising, lawyers had to work hard to build up a good client base. They shared crisp linen business cards and joined civic associations. They gave seminars and held business lunches. Some could generate a year's worth of operating expenses on the back nine. Today, the art of the schmooze retains it's importance. Unfortunately, it has become a dying art. Lawyers would rather hire William Shatner or the Man from U.N.C.L.E. to do a tv commercial for them during Judge Judy. Others would rather put up a billboard directly across the street from a favorite watering hole or hospital emergency room.

Lawyers see their competitors have success with advertising and they want to jump on the bandwagon. I give myself as an example. Our firm put an advertisement in a small Polish language newspaper. The blood was in the water. Other firms started noticing that we were gaining a lion's share of the Polish community's business and assumed it was the next untapped market. The local paper soon had advertisements from approximately 20 different law firms. Many hired Polish speaking "secretaries" or "marketing directors" in order to get in on the action. (I actually called one of the firms "Polish lines" which connected me to a Polish woman's cell phone as she was doing the dishes. I could hear the dog and the Maury Povich show in the background).

These bandwagon firms did not realize that the secret to our success was not advertising. With four law firm ads stacked on top of each other on one page, the ads became less effective. It was white noise. No one stood out from the pack. I learned that advertising in this manner was a short term fix. I was looking for long term success. I didn't want to be Menudo. I wanted to be the Rolling Stones. So how did we stand out from the crowd. The secret to our success was.....
  • Editors note: if you happen to practice in the city of New Britain, I would ask that you please divert your eyes from the following sentences. Instead, we encourage you to read our post on treadmill desks)

.....old fashioned networking. Our firm became a member of the community. We put on free legal seminars for area residents. We joined civic associations and chambers of commerce. I met with business owners and ate at local restaurants. We built up relationships with area attorneys in other fields of practice. I wrote a legal issues column and supported local community groups. We also built up a reputation of doing a good job. That was our marketing. Attorney Jim Calloway, the Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association's Management Assistance Progam summed it up brilliantly. Marketing is not advertising. In an article entitled, "Marketing Magic for Lawyers", Attorney Calloway asked if given the choice would you rather have a dynamic website or a talkative beautician in a busy hair salon. I chose the latter. I can't tell you how many bad haircuts I got in order to drum up a little business. Jim made an excellent point in his piece that is often overlooked by attorneys. As Jim puts it:

  • "Anecdotal evidence suggests to many of us that many of our problem clients were developed through advertising. They have no connection to you. They often treat you as a part of a legal system that they feel treats them unfairly. They often have no idea of the price of legal services, except for some ridiculously low price advertising for routine matters."

In other words, someone who likes you will not refer a nutjob to you.

We also decided not to engage in an ad war with our competitors. In the past, we would place an ad. The following week, a local firm would pay extra to be on the front page of the same paper. It was ridiculous. We decided to instead put the money back into our office. We improved our infastructure with better office management software, computers and phones. We invested in the appearance of our office with hardwood floors, elegant furniture, paintings and sculptures. (Dude, our office looks freakin classy. You should see the velvet Elvis in our waiting room). It also didn't hurt that I spoke Polish fluently. Clients didn't need to bring an interpreter to meet with me. Other firms came off as "carpet baggers." We invested in the neighborhood and were familiar faces. We advertise less. We network more.

Basically, if you want to be successful in the art of the schmooze, take a tip from the Rat Pack. Network with the local bigwigs. Tip the doormen and waitresses. And put on a great show. They'll keep coming back for the encore. More importantly, they'll tell their friends.
Please click here for the original.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

There Is More To Life Than Lawyering

I am a lawyer. I am not a workaholic. There, I said it! I have spoken the dirty words of our profession.

I don't apologize for my statement! There seems to be a prevailing thought in the legal profession that you can only be a good lawyer if you live, breath, eat, sleep, and poop law. 70, 85, 100 hour per week work schedules are pronounced as if they are badges of honor. They are offered up as a measure of excellence and expertise. I don't buy into this way of thinking, and I don't feel guilty getting away from work. I am a good lawyer, even though I "only" work 30 to 40 hours per week. When I work, my time is organized and focused. I get as much into my time, and as much out of it, as other folks do. And I am not killing myself doing it. I have balance in my life, and that is just as important in my scheme of being a well rounded, mentally healthy lawyer. I am not alone in my thinking.

On her Legal Ease Blog Allison Shields, Esq. writes of the virtues of doing something other than lawyering around the clock. Here's what Allison has to say:

As many of you already know, I was in Chicago last week for the first annual Total Practice Management Association "Get a Life" (TM) conference. This month's Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter included a recap of some tips from the conference speakers, and I'll be posting more of them on the blog in the next week or so.

The purpose of the conference, as well as the Total Practice Management Association's new magazine, Total Balance, (which you can get for free) was to teach lawyers ways to achieve greater work/life balance. If you look at the roster of speakers and programs from the event and the conference recap, you'll realize that work/life balance doesn't mean not working hard or not taking the business of law seriously - in fact, it's just the opposite.

I firmly believe that in order to be intellectually challenged, to come to work with your best foot forward and to provide your clients with the excellent service they deserve, you've got to have balance in your life.

But work/life balance doesn't just have one meaning that's universal to everyone. For some, it can be working long hours doing something they're passionate about. For others, balance comes by defining your priorities and focusing on what you love and what you do best, outsourcing the rest. For others, balance is achieved through flexible work schedules, and technological advances. Still others achieve balance by focusing their marketing and their practice only on the highest value clients. And of course, work/life balance also means determining your personal priorities and incorporating those into your life - whether through your practice or outside of your practice.

Yesterday, I came across an article in Law.com entitled, "Are Today's Lawyers Stretched Too Far?" by Susan Beck of The American Lawyer. The article begins by talking about tough times faced by big law firms, and the depression and even suicides that have resulted from recent layoffs and firm restructuring. Beck notes that the current law firm model is not sustainable, either financially or practically. She says, "Expecting lawyers to devote every ounce of their energy to their firm and its clients is not sustainable."

So what is the alternative? I've heard some lawyers from large firms commenting that one 'bright spot' in the economic downturn is that the lawyers who still have jobs won't be 'whining about work/life balance any more; they'll just be glad to be working.' I couldn't disagree more.

Work/life balance is even more important now, when financial pressures are mounting, client expectations are increasing, budgets are being scrutinized, and some workloads have increased due to under-staffing. And again - clients are better served by lawyers who are committed and focused, which necessarily means that those lawyers are taking care of themselves, too.

Beck suggests that it's time to, "knock [lawyers] out of the daily grind, to get [them]to stop, look around and think." Hopefully, focus on these issues - including conferences like "Get a Life" will help lawyers to do that.


Please click here to read the original article.


Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.




What Good Is A Blog If Nobody Is Reading It?

You're publishing a blog to draw web traffic to your business. Your time investment is significant and genuine. Unfortunately, unless people are reading your work, it is done in vain. From problogger.net comes some great tips on drawing readers to your blog.
The best way to build traffic for a new niche blog is to have lots of content and to post it regularly. Many new bloggers don’t realize this and are often disappointed with their traffic when they start out. They write a post or two a week and the traffic just isn’t increasing. It’s demotivating and makes you question whether or not you should waste your time niche blogging.

To help generate steady traffic and attract loyal readers, you need to have a content schedule. This could mean blogging five or seven days a week or it could mean just posting on the same two days of the week. Your readers want to know when to expect new stuff from you. So, why is it good for your niche blog to have a content plan and how should you develop it?

Why do you need a Content Plan?

Having a content schedule helps build loyal readership. If you write about specific things on specific days, readers will know when to come back. Readers will also take you more seriously if you have a methodical plan behind the blog, that is they know it’s not just the aimless ramblings of a procrastinator. It will help foster community and turn your blog into a favorite amongst your audience. A content plan keeps people coming back for more, especially with Niche Blogs.

Time Management

A content plan also helps you manage your time. When starting a blog, you’re often awash with tons of ideas for posts. So many, that you quickly get burnt out as the drudgery or writing about the same things sets in. If you organize your blog into content categories, you can spend your time focusing on several targeted ideas a week, as opposed to hundreds. This will fill your blog with relevant content to your niche, increasing the likelihood that people will find you via the search engines.

Good Habits

A content plan also helps to create good blogging habits. To maintain a successful niche blog community, you need to regularly update your blog (and not just with blog posts), respond to comments and overall monitor the site. You’ll create a production state of mind - meaning that you’ll get in the habit of writing a post a day, or even writing them all in one day and scheduling them to post. This will make the creation process much easier to begin and end.

Establishes Niche Authority

If you’re regularly writing about particular subjects, the sheer amount of content that this creates will establish your authority in your niche subject. Who are you going to trust more? The blog with a few sparse posts written at odd times, with very little information? Or the blog that is filled with relevant content to the subject your interested in that ’s updated in a methodical fashion?

Helps with Ideas for posts

Often, as you write in a more regimented, methodical fashion, you’ll come up with even more ideas for relevant posts. Then, you’ll find yourself altering your own content plan to fit in new and interesting ideas.

How to Develop Your Content Plan

The first step in developing your niche blog content plan is to sit and think long and hard about what you want your blog to be. Do you want to be a rockstar in your niche? Or do you want to be part of the scenery? Or do you just want a creative outlet?

If you want your niche blog to take over the world, then you need to post every day (and maybe more than once a day).

If you want to a part of a larger niche community, post 2 to 3 times a week.

If you just want a creative outlet, then post once or twice a week, depending on how the mood moves you but be sure to make sure it’s the same days.

What are Others Doing?

Research is so important when building your blog. Hopefully, you found people blogging about the same things as you. What are they doing? Do they have a schedule? What do they regularly write about? What are they doing wrong? And then ask the most important question a niche blogger faces:

How can you do it better?

Think About your Niche

Think long and hard about what interests you so much about your niche subject. What would you like to read about? Compare to your competition. Find some way to differentiate yourself while still focusing on the subjects that interest you the most. If you lack passion for any of your posts, it will show in your writing and will turn off readers.

Then think about how you can express your interest the most effective way. Think about the types of posts you’d like to write. That can be lists, interviews, reviews, features, videos, etc. Keep those in mind when it comes time to layout your content schedule.

Features and Small Posts

There are two types of posts that are relevant to niche blogs, features and small posts. Features are long posts (like this one) that focus on a subject and develop it fully (essay like, lists, interviews, etc). A small post is much shorter and focused on something that can be digested quickly (a video, photo slideshow, 2-3 paragraph post, etc).

You need to ask yourself what your feature to small post ratio will be. You will probably get burnt out if you post a long feature every day. Similarly, you niche blog may get stale if you only write quick short posts and don’t give your readers something MORE. Features are also more likely to gain attention on social media sites than a short post.

So, how many feature posts can you write for a week? How many short posts? It’s been my experience that one or two features is plenty for the week while 3 to 4 small posts will keep things interesting.
Always be Ahead

The most important aspect of developing a content schedule is to always be ahead of yourself. If your posts aren’t time sensitive, then schedule them out a week or two in advance. This will ensure that if anything comes up, you have a post going out no matter what.

Have a Backup

It’s not a bad idea to have a well full of articles that haven’t been published in your back pocket to use when you have nothing else to write about. It could be a longer feature you’re waiting for the right time to post or an idea your still wrapping your head around. Having these types of posts will help you when you’ve hit Blogging Burnout and can’t bear writing for a couple days.

Choose the days of the week you want to post

When planning your content schedule, keep in mind that there are blogging cycles during the week. There are days when your traffic will be down, such as Monday or Friday. People are getting back into the week on Mondays and people are exiting the week on Fridays. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days of the week to have big, content rich posts go out.

On some of my blogs, I use Friday as a link roundup day. I write about cool links that I found that don’t warrant their own post, but are worth sharing. On Monday, I usually put out a video or quick tip. Something light. Save the meat for the middle of the week when more people are paying attention.

Choose themed days

Some people might think it’s lame to picked themed days, but it’s a very effective way for people to remember your niche blog. For example, on Niche Blogger Today I have Theme Tuesday, Wordpress Wednesday, Technical Thursday, SEO Sunday, etc. It immediately lets people know what the column is about and gets them interested. I also recommend creating separate categories for each of these themed days, that way someone can find your themed posts all in one place when they are browsing your site. It’s not a bad idea to create category links for your themed days in your blog sidebar.

When should you schedule posts to post?

I’ve already talked about choosing the right days to post but what time of the day is it best to post? A general rule of thumb is to set your scheduled posts to go out mid-morning. People often are looking for something to read after they’ve settled at their desks with their cups of coffee. Also, by posting in the morning you’re more likely to get somewhere on social media sites because your content will be in front of people’s eyeballs for most of the day.

Always Double Check

Many bloggers don’t think of it, but they should be subscribed to their own blog feed. That way they will know if their scheduled post has gone up at the right time as well as making sure it’s formatted correctly. It’s also a great way to spot errors that can be fixed before your post hits critical mass. Also visit your own blog. Make sure the posts display correctly, respond to comments and interact with your readers. Engagement will keep them coming back.

Tweak

If something in your content schedule isn’t working, then by all means don’t be afraid to change your plan. If your regular posts on the mating habits of feral cats are not bringing in the traffic you expected, shift the topic into another category. Your niche blog should be an ever changing, ever growing organism that can change as quickly as it needs to in order to stay relevant.
Please click here for the original post.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

USB Connections

It is amazing how much stuff I have plugged in to my computer. There is my internet phone. My webcam. Speakers. Multiple monitors. Wi-fi. A ...